A mountain to climb

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TC350

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May 19, 2023
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Cambridgeshire
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C350 Sport saloon. Previously CLK230K and E260 saloon. 25 years Mercedes ownership.
Next month my 8-year old daughter Zaya will be attempting to climb Snowdon to raise funds for Children in Need. She is determined to get to the top, and will only be thwarted by adverse weather making it too dangerous. If anyone can help her in her aim to do something for those children who are less fortunate than herself, she will be thankful.


She’s already called for some help from the Gods, but I don’t think it’s going to be that warm in North Wales in November!

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Sorry for the delayed update. I’m still totally ****ed.

We were due to attempt Snowdon on Saturday but the weather was horrendous and considered too dangerous for even the experts. It turned out that some people did have a go that day and Mountain Rescue had to be called out for one of them.

Instead, our group of 8 adults plus Zaya and Archie the dog had a relatively relaxing morning walking on a windy but pleasant beach before a mainly liquid lunch at the Ffestiniog Railway bar in Porthmadog. After driving round to check out the parking facilities at Llanberis at the foot of Yr Wyddfa (the Welsh name for Snowdon) we went back to our lovely rented house in the middle of nowhere so that one of the couples could prepare dinner. Somehow, very many beer and wine bottles found their way into the recycling bin - certainly too many for a group planning to scale a mountain the next day!

One of our group had to make the difficult decision not to join us for the ascent because the sciatica that had been troubling him for about a week was playing up. He stayed at the rented house with Archie for the day. The other eight of us were all up and ready to roll on Sunday morning at 7am. The weather forecast still wasn’t great, but at least the wind speed was expected to be half that of the day before. We drove half an hour to Llanberis in two cars and stopped in the almost deserted Llanberis Station car park. £8 for the day was acceptable, but the machines only took coins and we didn’t have anywhere near enough between us. A notice on the machines informed us that we could pay by card at the station ticket office or the Llanberis gift shop. At 7:30 on a wet Sunday morning out of season, neither was open! So we had to go to a different car park a bit further away.

We eventually started walking just after 8am. The rain had reduced to just a mist, and the very steep public road leading up to the gate leading to the mountain track didn’t deter us. None of the Llanberis track was steep enough to need hands to pull us up, but it was still an unrelenting climb on a mix of surfaces. With me being by far the oldest of the group, through choice and necessity I paced myself the most. Two couples strode ahead while I kept Zaya, my wife and the wife of our sciatica stricken friend in a slower group.

After a long climb with the cloud level just above us so very little opportunity for scenic views, we eventually made it to a small building called ‘Halfway House’ where our speedy group were stopped enjoying coffee and snacks. Halfway House (actually halfway up from sea level and not from our starting point) sells sustenance for weary ”mountaineers” during the busy season, but closes from the end of October. But we were all well stocked with all we needed in our rucksacks, so not a problem - other than there being nowhere dry to sit.

The speedy group set off again, leaving my lot to regain some energy. Although I was the only one actually struggling by that point. Suitably revived we set off again, on what started straight away as difficult terrain for my already struggling legs. Had there been somewhere out of the elements for me to have stopped and waited for everyone else to go to the top and back down again, I would have. An alternative would have been for me to set off back down on my own and leave the others to get on with it. But I didn’t fancy descending alone in case I tripped and fell, and I also felt a sense of responsibility for my much younger female companions. So I plodded on.

After what felt like an eternity but was probably around two hours, we reached the top. My legs were on fire by this point, making every step up agony. Our friends were still there, having had plenty time to enjoy the packed lunches that my wife and I had prepared the night before. A few concrete steps led up to the very peak of the mountain where a monument had been placed to mark the location. Those few steps looked like yet another mountain to me, but with seven voices encouraging me I made it to the very top.

Most importantly, Zaya was up there long before me, having completed her charity challenge with relative ease. My pride helped to revive me somewhat.

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By the time we’d reached the top, held back by my tortoise-paced progress, the weather was deteriorating further. It wasn’t dangerous but lots of people were commenting that it was far too cold to hang around. So we didn’t stop to eat and drink, instead heading off down.

My legs were pretty much giving up by then, making every step down a major challenge. I just about coped on the shingle surfaces, but stepping from rock to rock was incessant pain. So again I was extremely slow and our group split into two. We were being hit by intermittent bursts of sleet and hail, that did nothing to improve my confidence in stepping for apparent slippery surface to slippery surface. Even Zaya was finding the descent difficult in places. The others being held back by me worked ahead to find the routes with the least steep steps for me to negotiate. I had two trekking poles to support me but still struggled tremendously. My wife and her best friend had to help me in places, despite having a combined weight of no more than mine.

By the time we eventually made it down to Halfway House I was completely shot. Every single pace sapped the remaining tiny fractions of energy from me. I tried sitting on a wet rock to recover a little, but cramp set in straight away and the girls had to pull me back up onto my feet. It would be dark soon so I had to carry on. One step at a time.

The others had reached the bottom long beforehand and called to check on our progress. We slowly continued down the track and we’re still in sight of Halfway House when Rob, one of our friends, came walking towards us. He had driven up to as close as he could to the entrance to the track then effectively walked back nearly halfway up Snowdon to meet us. He gave his car keys to the girls so they could go down at a realistic speed then get in his car to keep warm. They had a torch because it was nearly dark by then. Rob physically supported me all the way down, encouraging me every step of the way. Thankfully he’s a big strong lad. It was dark for most of that last leg, with Rob’s head-torch showing us the way.

I never knew that the front seat of a Skoda could be so welcoming. It was bliss. When we got back to the house I had all but completely lost the use of my legs, having to be helped from the car to a chair in the kitchen where I had one of the best cups of tea ever. Zaya was still full of beans and even took my boots off for me.

My thighs are still very bad, but at least I’ve improved enough to be able to walk several yards in less than an hour. I certainly won’t be challenging myself with any more mountains, or even steep roads. But it was all worth it to confirm how proud I am of my daughter and what a wonderful wife and friends I’m lucky to have.
 

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